"Back To Me"

"There were those empty threats
and hollow lies
And whenever you tried to hurt me
I just hurt you even worse
And so much deeper

There were hours that just
went on for days
When alone at last we'd count up
all the chances that were lost to us
Forever

But if I touch you like this
And if you kiss me like that
It was so long ago
But it's all coming back to me now."

-"It's All Coming Back to Me Now" Celine Dion

PROLOGUE

"All right, Dani, I'm running out of patience. Why did you do it?"

Fourteen-year-old Danielle Conan pushed a lock of dark brown hair behind her ear and gave the school shrink a bored look. "Listen, I hate to waste your time, but there's no big pyscho-literal problem here. I just got angry at her, and I hit her. End of story."

The psychologist leaned forward in his chair. "You gave Kelly MacLeland a black eye because you got mad. Why? Was she teasing you? Threatening you?" Dani was silent. "Maybe I'm the one who's confused here. Is violence the appropriate response to anger in your home?"

"No," Dani snapped. "My mother has never hit me, so don't try to turn this around and blame her."

"What about your father?"

Dani gripped the arms of the chair. "My family is not the problem here. I got in trouble. Let the principal give me a week of detention and quit psycho-analyzing me." Dani had lost her manners half an hour ago, when the drilling had begun. She had to give the guy credit-- he was bound and determined to find out the root of her so-called "problems".

"Detention?" He raised an eyebrow. "You're looking at suspension here, Dani." He flipped through a file on his desk. "You've been a straight-A student since you moved here to Birch City last semester. There isn't a bad mark on your record. I'd hate to see your entire academic career go down the tubes because you got mad at another student. Now, if we can tell the principal that you've gotten control of your rage, maybe we can lessen the punishment."

Dani looked around the office, avoiding the psychologist's eyes. It was a classy decor, with framed certificates lining the walls and beige carpeting. There were some framed photographs on his desk; she studied them in a feeble attempt to avoid having to answer him. One picture showed a young blonde woman who looked about eighteen. Perhaps it was his daughter. Another picture showed an elderly man with a cooky grin and a bit of gray hair along his scalp. Family, she supposed. A stab of pain hit her gut. Her home wasn't lined with family photos; she and her mother were a family. Dani had been told that time and time again, that two was enough.

It had always felt like something was missing. A father, namely, and the "extended" family all of her other friends had. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins... those titles ceased to be verbalized in the Conan home.

She shoved her mind to the present. She had to tell the head shrinker what he wanted to know. Her mother had taught her that; acting is an art everyone should master. She faked a heavy sigh. "Kelly was teasing me about the fact that my family moves a lot. She called my mother some names, so I wanted to shut her up."

"You just lost control?"

Dani grinned sweetly. "Yeah, I guess. I am sorry, you know. I didn't meant to hit her. It just.. happened."

The intercom buzzed, and the psychologist pressed the button. A tinny voice came over the line. "Miss Conan's mother is here to speak with you."

"Send her in."

The door swung open, and a well-dressed woman strode in. "Danielle, please tell me this is some sort of mis-understanding, and that you truly didn't resort to physicaly violence. If you did, than you have managed to completely compromise every little bit of morality I taught you, and you know how serious I am about that."

The woman might have continued her long-winded lecture had her gaze not met that of the psychologists. Her jaw froze and her eyes widened in disbelief. "Oh, God."

Her look of shock was matched by that of the man seated in the desk. He stared at the strinkingly familiar woman and realized suddenly why Dani's mannerisms had seemed so hauntingly well-known. He struggled for words. "Dani... is this your mother?"

Dani glanced from one to the other. "Yeah. Yeah, this is my mom," She searched her mother's pale face. "Mom, do you know Dr. Collins?"

Dr. Kevin Collins looked into the wide copper eyes of his former lover. Time had aged her beautiful face, but she was still unmistakable. "Lucy."

Lucy struggled to regain her composure. "Hi."

He studied her for a long moment, then laughed unhumorously. "Well, you look mighty fine for a woman who's been dead for fifteen years."

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